Meant to Wake Up Feeling, Aimee Herman
Great Weather for MEDIA, 2014
Reviewed by Lily Rex
Aimee Herman’s Meant to Wake Up Feeling will have you afraid that someone in a crowded train station is reading over your shoulder. So, you read it in your own house late at night, and with your heart racing you promise never to admit to anyone how deeply parts of it resonated with you. The grace, honesty, and bravery with which she addresses issues that many won’t touch with a ten-foot pole will shake you to the core.
Herman’s poetry collection is a living, breathing thing that not only explores “[e]xist[ing] within abstraction,” but makes you feel it. Like a body, some of these works are so personal and surreal a reader is left yearning. Her flow and voice shine through, yet the images play hide and seek—the reader can relate to having scars, to hopelessness, but is also left to wonder what inspired this exact combination and not quite sure how it would all look in real life. Take this excerpt from “geographical discourse.”
and the oil which never dries like the scars which never melt like puddles into gravel into choreographed body. perhaps none of this is directed.
In her bio, Herman describes herself as a warrior for the dismantling of gender. She is definitely deserving of the title. Her fearless comments on gender and the body, focused through the lens of her own struggles, are gutsy but skillful. Poems like “dirty pieces of nothingness” touches on how a body can be treated in public.
these legs have become an impossibility
these breasts have become a questionable activity
these elbows have become a cough or
these fingers a tangle
these feet are a distress
“pretend away the cupboards” is a monologue of what not to say to someone who expresses their gender in a way most aren’t used to, and struggling to feel like they are in the right body.
You hoard stamps and amputated limbs from rejected genealogy. Your inconsistencies make others uncomfortable…All I am really asking is this. Don’t politicize your gestures. Don’t flatten what should be lifted and gawked at. Don’t hide your pretty.
Many poems lack traditional punctuation like periods and commas. The lesser used items on your keyboard, like numbers and parentheses, take their places. Even struck-through words and mathematical formulas abound in Herman’s work. These elements that seem to make the book inaccessible are purposely used to convey that we sometimes struggle to understand each other’s bodies.
Her language is stripped to a raw form that sometimes sounds callous and bare like a set of directions. Sentences are often missing helping verbs, possessives, and articles. There is also a lack of direct or indirect objects. Her work rumbles with all-encompassing body positivity and introspection. Take these lines from “sadness from being a girl.”
the way we disguise bodies can easily be defined as
Her work is not comfortably approachable or easily digestible for most, but it wouldn’t be right any other way.